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The Forgotten City (1520.02.06): The southern explorers find a ruined city.
~ 679 words, Created by: Ellen Million (Illustration), Elizabeth Barrette (Inspiration), Edward Cammarota (Patron), Ellen Million (Writer), Posted: 10/04/11  

Two days into their journey, still fumbling towards a set daily schedule and comfortable rhythm of interaction, Malaamig's party struck a time mine.

Not literally - that would have been certain death - but figuratively, the ruined city was a confirmation that their long journey was already not in vain.

What remained of the city was folded up onto a mountain, almost completely sideways, and most of it had crumbled to rubble at the base, scars of slides showed where it had fallen, while some of it still clung miraculously to the mountain faces like a lichen. Tough brush had grown over most of it, and a weak waterfall spilled over a channel that suggested a much more intense spring flood, flashing in the brilliant sun.

Coming over the rise to see it, all three travelers spent a long moment simply staring.

"This is better than the ruins outside of Affamarg," Diren said, reverently.

Margaa, sitting gingerly on her saddle after two easy days of travel she was unaccustomed to, gave a breathless sigh. "Is it Ancient?" she asked. "Pre-Upheaval?"

"It has to be," Diren said, already rummaging in his saddlebag for a notebook and pencil. "Look at the round layout, and the framework; they found buried framework like that in Roluma, you know." He gestured without looking, cursing when the horse he had forgotten to dismount jostled in place and made his note-taking awkward. "And what but the Upheaval could put a whole city into a plane like that? What a geological upthrust that must have been... the plates..."

"It's like it's been forgotten by time," Margaa said poetically.

Malaamig gave one dry chuckle. He knew a distraction when he saw one. Already, Margaa was reaching for her own sketchbook, a dreamy look in her eyes. "Shall we camp here the night?" he asked pointedly, and both scientists turned to look at him blankly, as if they had forgotten him entirely.

Margaa recovered first. "Oh! No," she said, pointing. "Can we camp closer?" There was another rise between them and the ruined city; it was perhaps an entire days travel to actually reach it; the size of the scar on the mountain was deceiving.

The place she pointed at was not as sheltered a position for a camp, but it would do; the weather was fine. Malaamig nodded, and whistled to the dogs, who were baffled at the humans' constant desire to stop, but made good use of the time to smell all the signs of local animal traffic and mark their own. Jem alone sat primly at the feet of Malaamig's horse, with loyal Obi at her side.

Given the chance, the scientists would have spent the remainder of their sponsored journey poking at the rubble, trying to define floor plans from the shreds of what remained on the cliff face. Nothing small or fragile remained, of course; the Upheaval had been 1500 years ago, and the area at the bottom showed signs of regular flooding.

On the third day, Malaamig changed his tactic of reminding them how short the summer was and how long their trip still was, and simply packed up the camp in the morning while Diren and Margaa had their heads together, sketching piles of what looked like nothing but rock, tapping at the strange bare ribs of white that weren't bone, and exclaiming about things like 'pitting' and 'water damage' and 'flexible crystalline structures'. At one point, Malaamig thought they were going to rig some kind of climbing gear and scale the wall itself to see it closer.

Simply packing them up was a technique that would serve him well, as Malaamig found that it didn't take a forgotten city to distract them so; an unusual hare would do the same, or a wizened tree that looked somewhat related to the meffirb, an unexpected geological feature, or a bloom of orange algae in a stagnant pool.

The city fell away with the miles behind them as they set their feet to this strange new land, eager to find other forgotten treasures of history.

Author's Notes

This city first appears in the Upheaval novel I am writing, but deserved a modern look. It was written during the August 2011 Muse Fusion, prompted by Sibylle Machat and Elizabeth Barrette.

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